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  1. bitmage's Avatar
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       #1  
    I've spent an interesting two weeks using the TomTom Navigator 5 GPS, and Garmin's GPS 10 units on my 700p, so I thought I'd write up my experiences.
    I'm not covering every detail of usage, as this is long enough already!

    I've had a Garmin Streepilot III for several years, and have come to rely on it for navigation when I travel. But it is a large unit, and so I became interested in something that could leverage the Treo that I would be carrying anyway.

    TomTom makes a product called Navigator 5 that works with Palm handhelds. I intially purchased this, but due to problems I'll detail below I ended up returning it. I am now using Garmin's GPS 10. I'll compare the two systems in several areas.

    Hardware -- Advantage: TomTom
    The TomTom GPS receiver is a sleek, tiny unit. It easily fits in a pocket. The internal battery is rated at 10 hours of use. Charging is accomplished through a power connector on the side, covered by an attached rubber cover. TomTom only includes a car cord to charge with, which seems logical for a device intended for use in a vehicle, but actually I'd prefer a wall charger.
    The battery lasts so long that it's easier to charge the TomTom the night before, and then run off of battery all day leaving the power outlet open for powering the energy-hungry Treo.

    The TomTom has a rubberized backing, but would tend to slide all over my dash anyway. However, the SirfStar III chipset it uses is very sensitive, and it worked fine in a cupholder on the dash or even in the glove compartment (!). It automatically turns off if it hasn't seen a Bluetooth connection for a while, so you could leave it there (but you'd have to turn it back on manually).

    The Garmin GPS 10 is a fraction wider, a fraction longer, and about double the thickness of the TomTom unit. It's still small and pocketable, but watch out. There are strong magnets in the base that can wipe your credit cards or iPod if they get too close. Garmin also made the unit waterproof, and seems to assume that you will just slap it on the top of your car. A neat idea, but I expect most users will prefer to keep their expensive GPS transmitter inside the car with them. There is no way to remove the magnets - it is a glued-shut device that you'd have to crack open to modify.

    The internal battery is also charged through a port on the side - but this port is covered with a tiny unattached rubber plug that's going to be easy to lose. The port also uses a very small (type-a) power plug that has a thin fragile pin in the center. Like TomTom, only a car charger plug is included. Both units take 5VDC, 2A, center positive. I had an adapter of this type already, so I just made an cable to match the ports.

    The GPS 10 is an older-revision chipset that is not as sensitive as the TomTom one. Still, it seems to do a reasonable job of locking onto the sats. It prefers to be on the dash though, having more trouble maintaining lock if in a cupholder or glove compartment. Like the TomTom, it automatically cuts off if disconnected from your Bluetooth signal. If externally powered, it also supports automatically powering on, so you could leave it installed in your vehicle.

    Installation -- Advantage: Garmin (but not a fair comparison)
    I use a Mac laptop when travelling, and TomTom has a Mac installer so I elected to use that. This was a moderate disaster. Googling on 'TomTom Navigator OSX' will find more, but basically the installer that comes on the TomTom discs is broken. Downloading a newer version from their site let me get past the problems, but it was still an ugly process.

    Garmin has no Mac support, period. So I used their Windows installer on another PC and had no problems getting the software on my Treo.

    Footprint -- Advantage: TomTom
    The TomTom software installs several files to your Treo, most to the SD card (this is the app only, not maps)
    The Garmin software installs over 100 files. All to internal memory. And according to Garmin they have to stay there. Worse, the Garmin app wants a reset afterward, indicating that it's installing services that run all the time. More on this below. Many of these files appear to be voice prompts. There were also a bunch of foreign language files like QueMap_enUS, QueMap_deDE, QueMap_frFR, etc. There is no option to remove these extra language files. I wouldn't want to try and shoehorn this app into a 650.

    Interface -- Advantage: TomTom
    The TomTom app is attractive to look at, and once you're used to it, easy to navigate with a finger. Navigaton can be displayed in a top-down 2D view, or a 3D view. Routes can be planned, detours and vias added, favorites stored and recalled. An advanced mode lets you plan routes that start and end at points you are not currently located near. When driving, the voice prompts are loud and clear - at 3/4 volume my Treo's speaker was starting to distort. It was easily audible over road noise. There is a GPS status screen showing the sats. The software does not have a trip computer, unfortunately. TomTom also sells 'celebrity voices' to use for prompting (John Cleese, Mr. T, etc.) but I did not try these.

    The Garmin Que software is more dated looking than the TomTom app. It supports a top-down 2D view only. The different sections of the system (map, gps stat, route, turns) are actually seperate applications. They are reasonably well integrated by using the 5-way left-right buttons to move between them, but it's not as slick as TomTom's unified app. The voice prompts are just adequately loud at maximum volume. You'll need to listen closely in a noisy car. The Que app would not stay on while navigating on my Treo, even with external power - it would turn off after the 3 min default. Often these poweroffs would cause the Treo to lose communication with the GPS unit, requiring it to be power cycled to get things working again. I was able to fix this with AlwaysOn, but it's a problem that should be taken care of by the app itself.

    The Garmin software visibly slows down my Treo, making app changes laggy. Obviously something is always running in the background. There is no way to totally disable this without uninstalling the app, requiring a pc to reinstall it.

    If you've read this far, you're probably wondering why on earth I returned the TomTom and got the Garmin. Which brings us to the TomTom's fatal flaw:

    Map data and routing -- Advantage: Garmin
    Garmin uses NavTeq as their map supplier, and in my experience with the Streetpilot I have found them to be quite accurate. TomTom uses TeleAtlas, and this concerned me as a Google search on them finds much grumbling about the map data. It's justified.

    When I first got the TomTom, I drove around town. It thought my house was at the other end of the street. The street was mispelled. A nearby highway ramp was referred to by a street name I've never heard of. Not an auspicious begining.

    On my trip to California, I hit more problems. Approaching a complex interchange, it would tell me to take the 101. But not tell me N or S. Or it would tell me to take another highway entirely, apparently being confused by the fact that the two intersected there, so I would be on that highway for a moment as I went through the interchange. This resulted in several wrong turns. The TomTom recalculates immediately, but I'd rather be going in the right direction to start with than being instructed to take the next exit and turn around. It would call out exit numbers that don't exist, telling me to take 'Exit 14' when that was really 'Hampton Ave' with no exit number. After four days with the unit, I had no trust for it. And I was spending too much time looking at the screen trying to figure out what it wanted me to do.

    TomTom has maps for sale on their website on a city-by-city basis(!). Are they newer/better than what came with the unit? Who knows! TomTom will not give you any version information for them, seeming to expect you to cross your fingers and buy.

    The Garmin NavTeq data is much better. My house is where it should be. On a correctly named street. On the highway, directions are clear: "Take I-40W exit in 1mi". A quick glance at the screen and you know where you are going. Recently-built roads are there that were missing from the TomTom. Garmin's maps are sold as a set, and their site clearly tells you what the current version is. From my experience with the Streetpilot III (which uses the same maps), I trust the NavTeq data to get me to my destination.

    Conclusion: The whole point of a GPS system is to let you accurately navigate in an unfamiliar area. And the TomTom's map data is just not good enough. What I'd really like is the TomTom hardware and interface using the Garmin maps. As it is, TomTom wins on every point - except getting you to your destination.

    Updating maps is a huge undertaking, so I think that it's more likely that Garmin can improve their interface than TomTom fix its whole map database.
    I'm reporting bugs to Garmin and crossing my fingers. In the meantime, I'm using Resco Backup to swap out the Garmin software when I don't need the GPS, and then restore it back when it is needed. Klugey, but it works.

    Neither unit approaches the stability of a dedicated gps receiver, but they are much more convienient. And being software, they can be more rapidly improved and updated. But at the moment, it's still a bit bleeding-edge to converge your GPS into your Treo.
  2. #2  
    Perfect timing, I was just googling info on the tomtom for the treo.

    It sucks to hear that TomTom has bad maps, besides the fact that it apparently wont let you drive directly from the US into canada. You must plot your destination to the border as a midway point (as mentioned in another article online)

    Even worse is that these sites do not provide free map upgrades.
  3. #3  
    Nice post and very good detail! I'm using, and have been happy with, TomTom. Your point about the maps is good though. I think they are supposed to have new ones available soon according to the forum on the TomTom site. The post said something like new maps will be availabl stand-alone or as part of their updated Navigator product. I am pretty sure the individual maps you can buy right now are not updated. Maybe the playing field will be level with the new maps.
  4. #4  
    Any idea if the Garmin maps can be used with a different (non-Garmin) gps receiver?
    (if so, are they available separately?)
  5. #5  
    Yes, this has been helpful for me as well. I would *love* to purchase a GPS for my 700p that is based on the Sirf3 chipset, but I haven't found one that includes Topographical data. I need topo, and especially international topo, because of my military duties.

    Oh, well. Guess I'm stuck with a PLGR.
  6. #6  
    In February 2006 Garmin announced a Mobile 20. This "all-in-one" device has built-in GPS with the latest chip technology (SIRF), a speakerphone, suction cup and a charger sfor martphones including the Treo. We will have to wait and see if they have improved the software - they do mention 2D and 3D views.
    In some areas (read: big cities) it will have real-time updating for traffic problems (free and subscription).

    http://www.garmin.com/products/garminmobile20/

    I have been using my handheld Garmin (eTrex Legend C) and it does seem to have better routing than the Hertz Neverlost and a co-worker's Dell Axiom with a Bluetooth GPS puck. It only beeps for turns and requires a laptop for voice output. I plan on getting the Garmin Mobile 20 when it comes out for my Treo 700P.
  7. bitmage's Avatar
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       #7  
    Quote Originally Posted by lemongrass
    Any idea if the Garmin maps can be used with a different (non-Garmin) gps receiver?
    (if so, are they available separately?)
    The Garmin maps have to be used with Garmin software (they are locked). Their mapping application for the Treo currently only supports talking to the GPS 10.
  8. bitmage's Avatar
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       #8  
    Quote Originally Posted by paulbg
    In February 2006 Garmin announced a Mobile 20. This "
    Here's hoping that the software will be compatible with the GPS 10 also. The all-in-one design kinda defeats my aim of having a smaller unit than the Streetpilot. But it would be great if I could use the newer software with my current setup.
  9. #9  
    I did a bit more research on various GPS review forums and it seems the latest and greatest (for bluetooth receivers) is the BT-359 an update to the 358 model by Globalsat.

    Its apparently a bit smaller then the tom tom gps hardware and better. Also it seems to come with more power adapters when buying direct at least (http://www.usglobalsat.com/item.asp?itemid=134)

    Also the BT-359 is WAAS/EGNOS compatible (Basically it can also get signals from ground stations to inprove accuracy WAAS we use in the US, EGNOS is for europe)
  10. #10  
    I assume these bluetooth gps recievers work with laptops too? If so, do you guys know of any good windows navigation softwares?
  11. #11  
    Quote Originally Posted by muncheroo
    I assume these bluetooth gps recievers work with laptops too? If so, do you guys know of any good windows navigation softwares?
    Yes they do, previoulsy I had MS Mappoint. Granted when I was using it (2 or 3 years ago) I was comparing it to DeLorme software from 2 years before it, but it blew delorme away.
  12. #12  
    I just got the globalsat 359; I used to use the seidio all in one and I thought that would be best, but I love the 359! It's so small, and I really like that it's portable. Oh, and of course, it works! And, I won't have to buy a new gps every time I get a new phone.....
  13. #13  
    Quote Originally Posted by paulbg
    In February 2006 Garmin announced a Mobile 20. This "all-in-one" device has built-in GPS with the latest chip technology (SIRF)
    Careful there. SIRF's been around for awhile. The new, good version is SIRF III. It's more sensitive, is supposed to work when under dense trees or urban canyons, etc. I haven't tried it yet, I've been holding out for somethign that's BT, with TOPO software that will run on my 700p.

    So far, no luck, damnit.
  14. #14  
    There is a topo solution for the 700p. But I'd qualify it by saying -- you're gonna have to work for it. It's not a plug-in and go type solution.

    Having researched this extensively, searching for topo maps I could take hiking or camping or into regions TomTom doesn't cover, what I've found is that Pathaway is far and away the best solution.

    If you're tech-savvy, it's not all that difficult. Basically you have to download calibrated topo maps, format them for the Pathaway software, then put them on your SD card. It also works with hi-res satellite imagery (ie, Google Earth type images). It's pretty cool to track your path around the neighborhood.

    I can't recommend Pathaway strongly enough. So far it's the most versatile tool I've found.

    Darwin2k
  15. #15  
    A couple of (I hope) quick questions:

    1) Do you happen to know off hand if PathAway handles MGRS (Military Grid Refence System)?

    2) What would be a good spot to purchase compatible topo maps of the US and middle east?

    Thanks!
  16. #16  
    My quick answers would be:

    1) I'm not sure if Pathaway handles MGRS codes directly without conversion. I run everything through Touratech QV, which exports directly to my Palm SD card in a Pathaway-compatible format.

    2) Not sure about the middle east, but do a web search and you should be able to find the servers that allow US topo map downloads (Terraserver, etcetera).
  17. #17  
    Quote Originally Posted by IDtheTarget
    Careful there. SIRF's been around for awhile. The new, good version is SIRF III. It's more sensitive, is supposed to work when under dense trees or urban canyons, etc. I haven't tried it yet, I've been holding out for somethign that's BT, with TOPO software that will run on my 700p.

    So far, no luck, damnit.

    the bt-359 is sirf III and bluetooth, hence the BT in the model. And as i mentioned before it is WAAS/EGNOS compatible.

    but...while the topo maps would probably make mentioning this pointless, ill say it anyway. Apparently consumer GPS systems are never very accurate with altitude (from what Ive read on other forums)
  18. #18  
    I think that's why the maps are calibrated, because at any coordinate the ground is a given height. Unless you're going into caves and whatnot the gps won't need to know your altitude.
  19. #19  
    I would have to agree with Tom Tom maps not always accurate. I rarely use my GPS but I can recall 3 times when I was supposed to be at my destination but I end up on the wrong side or it would tell me to turn left but my destination is on the right.
  20. #20  
    Tom Tom rocks for me! Just took a trip from NY (my home state) to Florida and no problems at all! Got me right in front of our vacation home. I rate it a 9 out of 10 because it doe's not say the street names.
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